I’ve just had my invitation to renew my membership of the Conservative Party. I’ll bite, but only at the same level, which means my contribution in real terms has fallen by 2.8%. If you want it index-linked, here are the three things I believe you’ve got to start shouting about when not mushing huskies or hugging hoodies. (I can do without firm policies until 2008, but no later, please.).
1. Simplify, simplify, simplify! All the billions New Labour have grabbed in tax are being utterly wasted, thanks to its addiction to red tape, Band-Aid legislation, and setting targets instead of solving real problems. The gushing river of funds into the NHS has produced few visible benefits – and some incredibly ham-fisted problems, such as job losses and resource shortages. The endless giveaways to public servants – who now enjoy higher equivalent salaries plus index-linked pensions and an earlier retirement age – mean there is now no incentive for young people to enter the private sector; we’ll end up like France with worse wine and weather. I don’t mind paying taxes, but I DO mind that so many of them are being wasted.
Here’s an idea: for every new law or initiative you introduce, pledge to destroy TWO old ones. And make each new measure based on sound economics instead of populist pandering: do some cost-benefit analyses (almost unheard of in New Labour), risk profiling (don’t spend £30m on Race Crimes legislation when a grand total of 56 such incidents, mostly minor and over 50% by ethnics against whites rather than white-on-ethnic) were reported across the entire UK in 2005), and measure performance rather than target it. All targets do is force people to subvert the metrics. I want a concrete pledge to chop away at the red tape, and keep chopping.
2. Promote personal privacy as the natural state. Thanks for opposing ID cards, but that’s not nearly enough: New Labour has built the most intrusive, nannying, over-surveilled state in British history. Complex means-testing instead of a simple child allowance; speed cameras that raise revenue rather than increase safety; vast banks of DNA that cover 10% of the British population, most never charged with any offence; and unequal extradition treaties that allow other countries access to confidential data without needing permission or sanction. Dave, please start mocking that ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ mantra of Blair’s. (This isn’t about what I’ve done wrong, it’s about mind your own business. Snooping on me ‘just in case’ is the action of a police state, not a civil society.)
3. Attack Gordon Brown. Why are you giving your competitor such as easy ride? This Chancellor has somehow created the impression among the unthinking proletariat that he’s competent. In 1997 Britain had a £55bn surplus; it’s now a £25bn deficit, DESPITE a consistently rising economy (with concommitant increased tax take), masses of new stealth taxes (including a £5bn pension fund raid) and increased tax burdens due to fiscal drag. (Such as inheritance tax and higher-rate stamp duty now hitting even lower-middle-class families). Taking the overall tax take as share of GDP to its highest (39.1% and rising) in history. Hey, Norman Lamont got sacked for losing one little billion on Black Wednesday; you’ve wasted an absolute minimum of 80 times that and NOBODY REALISES IT. Start whacking Brown, Dave. Are you man enough?